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Internal Review Launched on Post Salon Proposal
A lengthy email from Atlantic Media Chairman David Bradley explaining the practice of sponsored dinners was posted on The Atlantic's Web site yesterday. In it, Bradley says he sees value in the off-the-record sessions, but adds that the marketing materials advertising them "do not all reflect the central fact of our conversations -- dialogue and debate, without the advance of a particular interest." He writes that the spotlight generated by the Post controversy has prompted a renewed effort to "make sure that future materials reflect exactly the spirit and facts of" the Atlantic dinners.
Last week, The Post said a newly hired marketing executive, Charles Pelton, was responsible for the brochure that mischaracterized the first Post dinner, scheduled for July 21, focusing on health-care reform. Pelton, who remains employed as the newspaper's general manager of conferences and events, has not commented publicly since Thursday.
But while Post executives immediately disowned the flier's characterization, senior managers had already approved major details of the first dinner. They had agreed, for example, that the dinner would include the participation of Brauchli and some Post reporters; that the event would be off the record; that it would feature a wide-ranging guest list of people involved in reforming health care; and that it would have sponsorship.
Some members of the newsroom raised objections about attending an event at Weymouth's house. No change in plans was made.
The only unresolved question was whether the first event would have multiple sponsors or a single one. Brauchli and Weymouth have said they preferred multiple sponsors, to dilute the influence of any particular sponsor. Yet when Weymouth's office sent out e-mail invitations to the event early last week, only one sponsor, Kaiser Permanente, was listed. (Kaiser officials have said they had not decided whether to participate.)
Weymouth said she was on vacation last week and did not see the invitation that was sent out in her name. If she had, she said, she would have raised more questions about the event's planning.
Brauchli, Weymouth and Post Co. chief executive Donald Graham met individually and in small groups with Post journalists yesterday, seeking to reassure them and answer questions about the controversy.
"I thought it was helpful," said veteran political reporter Dan Balz. "I thought they were forthcoming in trying to explain how it happened. I think everyone still has questions about how this collective breakdown occurred. This was not just two people in a room. There were a number of discussions about it. That part concerned me. Everyone knows the dinners were a bad idea. If anyone didn't know that before, they know it now."